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Daniel Richter

a nineteenth-century Afro-Brazilian intellectual who made important contributions to Brazilian philosophy and poetry through his writings, was born in the town of Campos in the northeastern province of Sergipe on 7 June 1839, to Pedro Barreto de Menezes, a well-respected man of mixed descent employed as registrar of orphans and abandoned children, and Emerenciana Maria de Jesus, who was considered white. Of humble means, the parents struggled to support their son’s education, which initially came through studies with a local educator and a priest who taught Latin. This contact with classical languages helped Barreto gain professional opportunities as a Latin teacher and aided in subsequent study as a seminarian. However, Barreto quickly abandoned the path to the priesthood.

Drawing on his educational background, Barreto worked during the 1860s as a private teacher, while seeking more permanent employment and intellectual opportunities. Between 1864 and 1869 he studied law in ...


Abiola F. Irele

Jean-Godefroy Bidima’s primary training is in philosophy, but his published work extends over a wide range that includes not only the related field of cultural anthropology, but also literature and art history. His first published work, titled Théorie critique et modernité africaine (1993 based on his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne draws on theoretical concepts and methodological approaches from these various disciplines in a sustained reflection on the implications of the African encounter with Europe and the process of transition in African society set in motion by this encounter in the specific historical and cultural contexts in which it occurred The reference to critical theory associated with the Frankfurt school may suggest a simple application of the models and ideas of this school In fact Bidima reaches back to a tradition of German sociology including notably the work of Karl Marx and Max Weber on which the ...


Jeremy Rich

French philosopher and novelist, was born on 7 November 1913 in Mondovi, Algeria. His family belonged to the working classes of the pied noir European settler community in the French colony of Algeria. Although pied noir people enjoyed great legal and political privileges over the vast majority of Muslim Algerians due to the French colonial government, Camus’ family demonstrated that Algerians of European descent were not all living in affluence. His mother, Catherine Hélène Sintés, was of Spanish descent, like many other pied noirs and worked as a maid She was illiterate and a stroke had left her partially deaf His father Lucien Auguste Camus had been an agricultural worker before joining the French military on the onset of war with the Central Powers in World War I He died in the first battle of the Marne in the opening months of the conflict and his body never was ...


Kate Tuttle

Algerian-born Albert Camus was one of France’s most famous twentieth-century writers. Although his impoverished boyhood in colonial North Africa led him into left-wing politics as a youth, Camus later became known for his belief in existentialism, a strain of philosophy that argues that human beings are alone in a godless universe and must find meaning without the comfort of religion.

Camus was born in a small town in eastern Algeria. He was only a year old when his father, a farm laborer from France, died in battle in World War I (1914–1918). His mother moved the family to a working-class neighborhood in Algiers where Camus excelled in the local elementary and high schools As a teenager Camus contracted tuberculosis a disease that robbed him of his first love playing soccer and plagued him his entire life As a student at the University of Algiers he studied philosophy ...


Peter S. Field

Born in Boston and a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, for most of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson was the ninth in a line of Congregational ministers. His father, William, died before Emerson's eighth birthday, and he and his siblings were raised by their mother, Ruth Haskins Emerson. Educated for the ministry at Harvard, Emerson ultimately quit his pastorate shortly after the death of his first wife in 1831. Dissatisfied with the structure and ritual of the church, Emerson sought a more expansive, democratic venue from which to preach. This he found on the lyceum lecture circuit. In the course of the following decades, he became one of the nation's most beloved and famed public lecturers. Many of his lecturers provided the material for his celebrated essays, which have not gone out of print since their initial publication.

Emerson ranks as the nineteenth century's greatest American liberal thinker. With Frederick ...


Françoise Vergès

writer, psychiatrist, and activist, was born on 20 July 1925 at Fort de France Martinique at the time a French colony The descendant of a slave of African origins Fanon was the fifth of eight children His parents who were of mixed heritage belonged to the urban middle class His father Félix Casimir Fanon worked in the French customs Eléanore Médélice his mother was a shopkeeper She was very proud of her Alsatian roots on an island where the hierarchy of color was very strong Both parents discouraged their children from speaking Creole and encouraged them to integrate into French culture Fanon studied at the elitist Lycée Schoelcher where he had Aimé Césaire as one of his teachers At eighteen Fanon joined the Free French army and was sent for army training to Algeria Fanon became disillusioned with the cause of freeing Europe from Nazism and wrote to his ...


Biodun Jeyifo

Frantz Fanon is one of the preeminent thinkers of social revolution and human freedom of the twentieth century. Taking its roots in the contradictions of the colonial order, his thought matured into a comprehensive, intricate, and unique system that has achieved resonance well beyond the formal end of colonialism. The uniqueness of his thought is reflected in the appellation based on his name, “Fanonist.” To all scholars of modern African thought, Fanon has a central place in a genealogy of thinkers and statesmen that stretches from the late eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth-century modern, yet he clearly transcends geopolitical and regional discursive boundaries. His thought has inspired mass movements of workers, the unemployed, and the uneducated, while he is carefully and avidly studied in the most arcane disciplines and fields of academia.

Born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, Fanon (1925–1961 went to France as a young man ...


Richard Watts

Born in Fort-de-France on the island of Martinique into a conventional, bourgeois family, Frantz Fanon grew up with assimilationist values that encouraged him to reject his African heritage. This influence was countered by one of Fanon’s high school teachers, Aimé Césaire, who introduced Fanon to the philosophy of Négritude and taught him to embrace the aspects of self that the colonizer had previously forced him to reject. The encounter with Césaire proved to be a turning point in Fanon’s intellectual development. In 1940 following France s capitulation to the Germans in World War II the part of the French Navy that had declared its allegiance to the collaborationist Vichy regime began the occupation of Martinique As a result 5 000 French soldiers commandeered the resources of the island leaving the resident population to fend for itself It was in this context that Fanon first experienced the full force ...



Frieda Ekotto

Chadian poet, essayist, and philosopher, was born in the south of Chad on 7 December 1959. His given name is Nimrod Bena Djangrang. He grew up in Chad in a Protestant family, and in 1984 was forced into exile to escape the war, going first to the Ivory Coast and then to France in 1991. He currently resides in France, in Amiens, a city north of Paris. Nimrod received his PhD in philosophy in 1996 from the University of Amiens, France, and has received many prestigious prizes for his fiction, poetry, and philosophical writings. Nimrod was coeditor of the literary magazine Agotem with François Boddaert and Gaston Paul Effa, and from 1997 to 2000 he was the editor of the literary magazine Aleph, beth. In 2006 Nimrod was invited to the University of Michigan as a visiting professor in the department of romance languages and literature ...


Sylvie Kandé

An outstanding figure of twentieth-century philosophy, literature, and politics, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was the author of world-renowned essays, biographies, novels, and plays. He is generally remembered for his contribution to existentialism, a philosophical doctrine that challenges previous determinations of the nature of human existence and focuses instead on its raw and subjective reality. Positing that existentialism is a form of humanism, Sartre held that individuals must take responsibility for their freedom, which he defines as an uninterrupted series of choices. To achieve authenticity, one must also commit to personal and collective disalienation—an anxiety-inducing process, given the meaninglessness of a world devoid of teleology.

Sartre s own interventions in speeches and publications constantly targeted state power and its institutions and reflected his solidarity with the oppressed An eminent intellectual who declined the Légion d Honneur and the Nobel Prize for Literature Sartre undoubtedly brought into the limelight the various ...


J. Ayo Langley

Studies of African political thought are still dominated by the Western intellectual tradition. As Langley and Van Hensbroek have argued, African political thinkers are still studied as derivative thinkers borrowing from Western political thought without any originality. The purpose of this entry is to draw attention to the thought of Kobina Sekyi (1892–1956) of Ghana, who was fully engaged with the Western intellectual tradition and was trained in the philosophical tradition of the West but who was not a derivative thinker and remained firmly anchored in his Akan-Fanti culture and tradition, to which he turned for inspiration and guidance in the period of cultural crisis unleashed by colonialism and Christianity. The details of his thought can be found in the works listed herein.

William Esuman-Gwira Sekyi, better known as Kobina Sekyi, was born at Cape Coast on 1 November 1892 He was the grandson of Nana ...


Charlene T. Evans

fiction and nonfiction writer, poet, teacher, and philosopher. Nathan Pinchback Toomer was the author of Cane (1923), a modernist text considered an artistic masterpiece and one of the most important works of the Harlem Renaissance. Toomer was born in Washington, D.C., the only child of a brief marriage between Nathan Toomer and Nina Pinchback Toomer. Married twice before, his father was a Georgia planter who inherited wealth from his second wife, Amanda America Dickson. His mother was the daughter of Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, a Union officer in the U.S. Civil War who was elected to the Louisiana state senate in 1868 and appointed lieutenant governor upon the death of the incumbent in 1871. Pinchback gained the distinction of being the first African American to serve as state governor when he served briefly as acting governor of Louisiana when the governor Henry Warmoth was ...


Rudolph P. Byrd

Jean Toomer is the author of Cane (1923) and a bridge between two distinct but contemporaneous groups of American writers. The first group consists of authors such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston whose writings define the scope of the New Negro or Harlem Renaissance. The second group consists of such writers as Waldo Frank and Gorham Munson who dominated the literary scene of Greenwich Village and whose writings are characterized by experimentalism and political liberalism. Toomer was a comrade-in-letters to Frank and Munson, and a distant but influential figure to Hughes and Hurston, who admired the achievement of Cane (1923), the three-part collection of sketches, poetry, and drama that established a standard for the writers of the New Negro movement and that conveyed the profound search for meaning at the core of American modernism.

The only child of Nina Pinchback and Nathan Toomer ...


Robert B. Jones

Toomer, Jean (26 December 1894–30 March 1967), writer and philosopher, was born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C., the son of Nathan Toomer, a planter, and Nina Pinchback, the daughter of Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction and the first U S governor of African American descent Like his parents Toomer could easily pass for white his heritage comprising several European and African bloodlines Indeed throughout his formative years until age eighteen he lived alternately as white and as African American In 1895 Nathan Toomer abandoned his family forcing Nina and her son to live with her somewhat tyrannical father in Washington P B S Pinchback agreed to support them only under the condition that the boy s name be changed Though his name was not legally altered his grandparents thereafter called him Eugene Pinchback in school he was known as Eugene Pinchback ...


Peter Hudson

Jean Toomer's position in the canon of African American literature rests on his haunting narrative of Southern life, Cane. Despite Toomer's later ambivalence toward his racial identity, the novel has been rediscovered by successive generations of black writers since its original publication in 1923. Toomer, who was racially mixed but able to pass for white, sought a unifying thesis that would resolve the conflicts of his identity. He spent his life trying to evade the categories of American racial and ethnic identification, which he believed constricted the complexity of a lineage like his.

As a writer, Toomer was nurtured by Greenwich Village progressive aesthetes of the 1910s and 1920s, such as Waldo Frank and Hart Crane. His inspiration for Cane, however, came from his two-month stint as a substitute principal at the black Sparta Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Georgia in 1921 Entranced by Georgia ...


Sholomo B. Levy

writer and philosopher, was born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C., the only child of Nathan Toomer, a planter from North Carolina, and Nina Pinchback, the daughter of the Reconstruction-era senator P. B. S. Pinchback. Pinchback was biracial, and he could easily have passed for white. In fact, his sister urged him to do just that when she wrote, “I have nothing to do with negroes am not one of them. Take my advice dear brother and do the same” (Kerman and Eldridge, 19). Toomer's grandfather ignored that advice, went on to become, briefly, acting governor of Louisiana, and was elected to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, though he was denied entrance to both houses.

Toomer once said that it would be “libelous for anyone to refer to me as a colored man” (Rayford Logan, Dictionary of ...


Joy Elizondo

The child of a washerwoman and a musician, José Manuel Valdés was born in Lima, Peru's capital city, when nearly half its population was black. Though his parents could not afford to educate him, his godparents and mother's employers stepped in, seeing to his early education at a prominent religious school. He would later become the first black writer to publish in Peru, both as a doctor and as a poet, as early as 1791.

After completing school, Valdés yearned to become a priest, but during the colonial period blacks were denied access to the priesthood by the Catholic Church, and he turned instead to medicine. He could have prospered as a romancista, a type of medical practitioner that required little training and was restricted to “external remedies.” In 1788 he took the more challenging route and pursued the title of latinista surgeon for ...